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Methane vs !

ro"ane as a Fuel Source C##$%$&'


Teacher Background Information:
Methane and propane are linear singly-bonded hydrocarbons called alkanes. The alkanes are non-polar, insoluble in water, less dense than water and flammable in air. They have similar chemical properties but gradually changing physical properties as the length of the carbon chain increases. They can be solids, liquids or gases at room temperature depending on their chain length. The first ten alkanes are shown below. They are structurally similar with each successive alkane differing from the previous by a repeating unit of C !- "a methylene unit#. Alkanes Name Methane &thane (ropane )utane (entane e+ane eptane .ctane 0onane 2ecane # Carbons $ ! ' % * , / 1 $3 C C
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Structural Formula C C C C C C C C
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The alkanes with $-% carbon atoms are gases at room temperature and are primarily used as heating fuels. The alkanes with *-/ carbon atoms are liquids at room temperature and are very volatile and are used to make gasoline. The alkanes with 1-$- carbon atoms are also liquids at room temperature, but have higher boiling points and are found in kerosene, diesel, and 4et fuels. The alkanes with $- or more carbon atoms are solids at room temperature. 5n combustion reactions alkanes react with o+ygen to produce C. ! and heat. 6lkane 7 .! C.! 7
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. and energy in the form of

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heat

5f combustion is incomplete, due to a lack of o+ygen gas, then carbon dio+ide, carbon mono+ide "a common pollutant# and carbon may form in addition to water and heat. The production of carbon mono+ide can have serious environmental implications. The two alkanes that will be the focus of this activity are methane and propane. Their structures are shown below8 Methane:

!ro"ane:

The complete combustion reactions of methane and propane are shown below8 Methane: !ro"ane: C() * %+% C,(- * .+% C+% * ,C+% * %(%+ * )(%+ * heat heat

Methane combustion sho/ing molecular rearrangement

Methane and propane are popular fuel sources in both the 9:6 and Canada. They are both by-products of natural gas processing and crude oil "petroleum# refining. 6lthough natural gas refining separates out the methane from its other components, methane is often referred to as ;natural gas.<

Natural 0as 1Methane2


0atural gas is a combustible, gaseous mi+ture of simple hydrocarbon compounds, usually found in deep underground reservoirs formed by porous rock. 0atural gas is a fossil fuel composed almost entirely of methane "C other gases, including ethane, propane, butane and pentane. #, but does contain small amounts of

0atural gas is used e+tensively in residential, commercial and industrial applications. 5t is the dominant energy used for home heating in both Canada and the 9:6. The use of natural gas is also rapidly increasing in electric power generation and cooling, and as a transportation fuel. 0atural gas is a clean burning fossil fuel, producing primarily carbon dio+ide, water vapor and small amounts of nitrogen o+ides. .ther fossil fuels are coal and oil, which together with natural gas, account for about // percent of all energy consumption. (o/ /as Natural 0as Formed3 The prevailing scientific theory is that natural gas was formed millions of years ago when plants and tiny sea animals were buried by sand and rock. =ayers of mud, sand, rock and plant and animal matter continued to build up until the pressure and heat from the earth turned them into petroleum and natural gas. Methane from Biogas 6lthough methane is derived predominantly from non-renewable sources, methane can also obtained by the anaerobic digestion of wastes.

6naerobic digestion of wastes provides biogas. )iogas contains about ,3> methane that can be used to generate electricity or used for heat or for fuel for vehicles. 6ny animal manure, human sewage or food waste will produce methane during anaerobic digestion. )iogas can be cleaned to yield purified methane that can be used in the natural gas pipelines. Methane from biogas is an e+cellent alternative energy source. 9sing methane for energy helps the environment by replacing the use of non-renewable fossil fuels with renewable energy and by taking the methane out of the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas that has !$ times the heating effect as carbon dio+ide. )iogas methane is renewable unlike natural gas which is a nonrenewable fossil fuel.

!ro"ane
(ropane, C' /, is used as a household and industrial fuel. (ropane is used in organic synthesis, the manufacture of ethylene, as an e+tractant solvent, refrigerant, gas enricher, an aerosol propellant, and in mi+tures for bubble chambers. (ropane, C' /, is an energy-rich gas. 5t is one of the liquefied petroleum gases "=(-?as or =(?s# that are found mi+ed with natural gas and oil. (ropane and other liquefied gases, including ethane and butane, are separated from natural gas at natural gas processing plants, or from crude oil at refineries. The amount of propane produced from natural gas and from oil is roughly equal. (ropane naturally occurs as a gas. owever, at higher pressure or lower temperatures, it becomes a liquid. )ecause propane is !-3 times more compact as a liquid than as a gas, it is transported and stored in its liquid state. (ropane becomes a gas again when a valve is opened to release it from its pressuri@ed container. Ahen returned to normal pressure, propane becomes a gas so that we can use it. 6lthough propane accounts for less than ! percent of all energy used in the 9:6 and Canada, it has some very important uses. (ropane is the most common source of energy in rural areas that do not have natural gas service. 5t is used for heating homes, heating water, cooking and refrigerating food, drying clothes, and fuelling gas fireplaces and barbecue grills. .n farms, it is used to dry corn and power farm equipment and irrigation pumps. )usinesses and industry use propane to run their fork lifts and other equipment. 6bout %* percent of propane is used by the chemical industry as a raw material for making plastics, nylon, and other materials. Ahile only a small fraction of propane is used for transportation, it is the largest alternative transportation fuel in use today. 5nstead of gasoline, propane is often used to fuel fleets of vehicles used by school districts, government agencies, and ta+icab companies. 5n recreational pursuits, hot air balloons use propane to heat the air that makes them rise. (istor4 of 5i6uefied !etroleum 0ases =iquefied petroleum gases were discovered in $1$! when an 6merican scientist, 2r. Aalter :nelling, discovered that these gases could be changed into liquids and stored under moderate pressure. The =(gas industry got its start shortly before Aorld Aar 5 when a problem in the natural gas distribution process popped up. 6 section of the pipeline in one natural gas field ran under a cold stream, and the coldness led to a lot of liquids building up in the pipeline, sometimes to the point of blocking the entire pipeline. :oon, engineers figured out a solution8 facilities were built to cool and compress natural gas, and to separate the gases that could be turned into liquids "including propane and butane#.

(ropane is a non-renewable fossil fuel, like the natural gas and oil it is produced from. =ike natural gas "methane#, propane is colorless and odourless. 6lthough propane is nonto+ic and odourless, foulsmelling mercaptan is added to it to make gas leaks easy to detect. (ropane is a clean burning fossil fuel, which is why it is often chosen to fuel indoor equipment such as fork lifts. 5ts clean burning properties and its portability are the reasons it is popular as an alternative transportation fuel. (ropanefuelled engines produce much fewer emissions of carbon mono+ide and hydrocarbons compared to gasoline engines. =ike all fossil fuels, propane emits water vapor and carbon dio+ide, a greenhouse gas. The price of propane is closely linked to the price of natural gas and crude oil, in part because it is derived from these commodities, but also because it competes directly with natural gas and fuel oils in primary markets. This connection means propane prices fluctuate seasonally with weather conditions, and can swing widely in response to events affecting those commodities.

Fuel Com"arisons: 0atural ?as and (ropane "compared with carbon "coal##8 C"s# 7 .!"g# C.!"g# B C -'1'.* kDEmol C C'
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."l# B C -/13 kDEmol


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Fuel C"s# C C'


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eat released per gram of fuel '% kD **., kD *3.* kD

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"g# and C'

"g# release more energy per gram and can be considered to be ;cleaner< fuels.

5n this activity, students will first view the combustion of methane by teacher demonstration. This should generate student interest in the topic and give students an idea of how violent combustion reactions are. 6fter the demonstration, students will read a letter written to a chemical e+pert on fuel sources and, acting as the e+pert, respond, in detail, to the letter. This will require considerable research on the studentsG

part. There are also several e+tension questions and stoichiometry activities to complete as an optional assignment.

Methane Combustion Teacher 7emonstration

Teacher 7emonstration: Combustion of Methane


Materials: Clean, empty paint can Hubber hose 0atural gas valveEsource Matches ammer :crewdriver

!rocedure: $. (uncture the lid of the paint can "in the center# by hammering the screwdriver through the lid while it is in place on top of the can. !. (uncture the side "near the bottom# of the paint can using the same procedure described in $ above. I:ee diagram below for puncture points. J$

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ammer the lid onto the paint can so that it is tight.

%. 6ttach rubber tubing to the gas supply valve and insert the other end of the tubing into puncture point J!. *. Turn on the gas supply and flush the entire can with methane gas "$-! minutes#. ,. Hemove the hose and turn off the gas supply. -. 5gnite the top of the paint can with a match "you should see a flame#. /. :tand back and make sure that no one is close to the can. 1. The o+ygen will slowly begin to replace some of the methane in the can by entering through the holes in the can. Ahen it reaches the optimum ratio "apparently 18$ air8 methane# of o+ygen and methane for combustion, a loud ;pop< will be heard and the lid will fly "upwards# with heat and flame. This could take anywhere from * -$* minutes. "Kou will see the flame sink lower and lower into the can so that it wonGt be visible after a while#. I5 usually tell students that the e+periment did not work because they e+pect a bang to happen immediately. 5 tell them that we will have to wait until the flame goes out by itself before we can repeat the e+periment and 5 4ust continue on with teaching. 6fter about $3 minutes, the can e+plodes and takes the students by complete surpriseL 0ote8 The same paint can could be used again in future e+periments "as long as the seal remains tight between the lid and the can#

8uestions to ask students after the can e9"lodes:


$. Ahat type of reaction occurredM "Combustion# !. Aas the reaction endothermic or e+othermicM that heat is released# ow do you knowM " Exothermic; flame indicates

3. Arite the balanced chemical reaction occurring. "CH4 + 2O2

CO2 + 2H2O + heat#

%. &+plain why the reaction could not be done again in the same paint can right away. " H2O is formed and the can will be wet!#

*. Ahy didnGt the can e+plode immediately after lightingM "Methane doesnt combust without oxygen present# ,. Aould propane work for this demoM " o! !ropane is too dense and wont rise to the top of the can"#

Methane vs !ro"ane as a Fuel Source Student Activit4

Consumers in the :SA and Canada are interested in the different fuel source o"tions Belo/ is a t4"ical letter /ritten b4 a consumer to a chemist /ho is an e9"ert /ith res"ect to fuel sources The students; task is to research the s"ecific information and res"ond in as much detail as "ossible to the 6uestion "osed< acting as the chemical e9"ert

Consumer 8uestion: 5Nm getting close to buying a small retirement home. 5 am looking primarily in 0orthern Manitoba, Canada and in 0orthern Minnesota, 9:6. 6ll of the properties 5Nm considering are in rural areas and have either natural gas or propane gas heating systems. :ome friends are strongly encouraging me to buy a home relying on propane gas for heat, while others strongly suggest natural gas "methane#. 5 am interested specifically in8 Ahich fuel, natural gas or propane, is the most cost-effective "now and in the future#M 5s it more efficient and cost-effective to try to run all your appliances with similar fuel "we plan to convert to a natural gas fireplace "from wood-burning# and purchase a stove that runs on natural gas#M Ae also plan to purchase a barbeque. Ahich fuel, natural gas or propane, would be bestM

ow do propane and natural gas compare cost-wise with electric or oil heatM Ahich fuel, natural gas or propane, is more heating efficientM Ahich fuel, natural gas or propane, is more convenient to supply, being that we live in a rural communityM Ahat are the differences in fuel prices in Canada and the 9:6M Ahat are the environmental impacts of natural gas vs. propaneM

6ny feedback regarding the propane vs. natural gas issue would be greatly appreciated. :igned, Fuelled with 9ncertainty

(aving read the consumer 6uestion< students should research the s"ecific information re6uested and res"ond to the letter

=9tension 8uestions >egarding Fuel T4"es 1+"tional2:


$. Ahy is ethane not used to heat homesM "Hecall that in terms of chain length, ethane is between methane and propane#. !. Ahat is ethane used for, if not as a fuel in heating homesM '. Ahat are the pros and cons of the following fuel types for residential consumersM Fuel .il &lectricity 0atural ?as (ropane ?as

%. Ahat are some uses of methane, other than for heating homesM *. Ahat are some uses of propane, other than for heating homesM ,. 2escribe the process for separating natural gas into its usable components, such as methane or propane. -. 2escribe the process of crude oil refining in the production of propane. /. (ropane is used in one of the steps for preparing chickens for consumers. 2escribe what ;propane singeing< is. 1. 2iscuss the feasibility of transporting methane vs. propane. $3. Ahich gas, methane or propane, is more at risk of e+plodingM

$$. Ahat are some alternative sources of methane and propane "apart from natural gas processing and crude oil refining#M $!. Ahy is methane considered to be a ;renewable< fuel, even though it mainly comes from a nonrenewable sourceM "i.e., Ahere else can you get methane from in significant amountsM# $'. Ahat percentage of methane in the atmosphere comes from the flatulence of livestockM $%. Ahat are the main factors that drive the prices of methane and propane gasM $*. 2iscuss the availability in certain locations of methane vs. propane gas in the 9:6 and Canada. $,. Ahere is the largest source of both methane and propane in CanadaM $-. (ropane has been considered as an automotive fuel. Hesearch this topic and discuss the pros and cons. $/. Hesearch and discuss the usage of methane from biogas in Canada and the 9:6. Ahat percentage of methane used in these countries comes from this renewable energy sourceM

=9tension Activities: Stoichiometr4 in Combustion >eactions 1+"tional2


Methane burns in air according to the following balanced equation, C()1g2 * %+% C+% * %(%+ * -'& k?@mol

while propane burns in air according to the following balanced equation C,(-1g2 * .+% ,C+% * )(%+ * %%%& k?@mol

$. The ma4or component of natural gas used by utility companies is methane, C %O the gas used in gas barbecues, etc., is propane, C' /. 6ssuming that each of these gases burns completely, compare the amount of energy released by each a# in terms of kDEmole of C. ! produced, and b# in terms of kDEg of fuel.

6re both fuels equally polluting "based of moles of C. ! formed per kD of energy produced#M

!. 0atural gas is mostly ethane but it also contains some ethane and propane. The enthalpies of combustion "B comb# of methane, ethane and propane are -/13, -$*,3 and -!!!3 kDEmol, respectively. a# Calculate the amount of heat released per mole of carbon dio+ide produced for the three gases.

b# Aould natural gas or pure methane generate less carbon dio+ide for the same amount of heat releasedM

+nline >esources:

c# Aould natural gas or pure methane generate more energy for the same massM

(undreds of Industrial uses of !ro"ane: http8EEwww.npga.orgEi%aEpagesEinde+.cfmMpageidC/$Chickens: From the Coo" to the >efrigerator: !ro"ane Singeing http8EEwww.bbc.co.ukEdnaEh!g!E6!,3!/$ !ro"ane vs Natural 0as 1methane2 for BB8;s: http8EEwww.homefurnish.comEpatiolawngardenEbarbecuegrillEpropanevsnaturalgas.asp+ !ro"ane in Canada: http8EEwww.propanegas.caEFile6reaE(?6CE(ropanePFact:heetP&.pdf Natural 0as 5i6uids !ricing 1Canada2: http8EEwww.centreforenergy.comEsilosE0atural?as=iquids(ricesE0?=-(ricing.asp !rice Com"arisons of (ome (eating Fuels 1from an AriAona Bood$Burning Sales Industr42: http8EEwww.outdoor-wood-furnace-boiler.comEwood-heating-costs-vs-gas-electricity.htm !ro"ane !ricing: http8EEfindarticles.comEpEarticlesEmiPqa*%$3EisPEaiPn!$'$%''/ BB8: Natural 0as vs !ro"ane vs Charcoal: The =ndless 7ebate 8 http8EEcooking.savvy-cafe.comEbbq-natural-gas-vs-propane-vs-charcoal-the-endless-debate-!33--3,-$$E 7ifferent T4"es of Fuels: :SA http8EEshowcase.netins.netEwebEheatingairEintro.htm Methane InformationC http8EEen.wikipedia.orgEwikiEMethane Natural 0as !rices Canada: http8EEwww.energyshop.comEesEhomesEgasEgaspriceforecast.cfmM Combustion of Fossil Fuels: http8EEwww.elmhurst.eduEQchmEvchembookE*$!energycombust.html